Trailblazers: The first construction women to make an impact in their industry

Construction can be sometimes pegged as a singular industry to those on the outside. But in reality, the term “construction” refers to many different trades, skills, and projects that span multiple sectors. For instance, bricklaying, asphalt companies, and pavement services don’t always come to mind when people think of construction as a whole, but their roles within the larger scope of the industry are just as important as any other.

Another common misconception? The construction industry is ruled exclusively by men. While it’s true that men outnumber women in construction, there are ambitious female leaders who have set out to change this. And particularly, there are several leading women in construction who are making a name for themselves in the aforementioned trade categories of bricklaying, asphalt, paving, and more.

Here is how several women in construction are paving the way for the next generation of female leaders.

Beth Duffus – Project Manager, Granite Construction

Many women refer to themselves as a queen, but Beth Duffus has been nicknamed “Paving Queen.” Recently honored as one of the 20 to watch in 2020 by Women of Asphalt, Beth currently serves as a Project Manager for Granite Construction, referred to as America’s Infrastructure Company, and oversees projects involving asphalt concrete fueled from safely mined aggregates. Beth wants to help women in construction find their confidence and prove that there is a place for women in the industry.

Mary Katherine Harbin – Maymead Inc.

Mary quickly fell in love with the empowering feeling of operating a paver after signing up for a shift at Maymead Inc., an asphalt construction services provider, in need of a few night shift operators. Understanding that Maymead was having trouble filling open positions and fully aware that there was a lack of representation for women in construction, Mary Katherine set out to recruit more women to work at the company. She now leads an all-female paving crew, one of the few to exist within the industry. The crew boasts their own Cat® paving equipment, marked with a pink racer stripe to remind the female team of their impact in the industry.

Karen Mitchell – Double M Concrete LLC

Karen Mitchell likes to say that the concrete flatwork profession chose her. When Karen’s husband started their family business in 2001, she was teaching elementary school. As she learned more about what her husband did every day, Karen became much more interested in concrete than teaching and decided to manage the company office. After 20 years building a successful business with her husband, Karen reflects on how NAWIC played a part in her journey. Through various courses, networking and learning from NAWIC meeting speakers, Karen found the learning curve much easier to handle and enjoys finding cutting edge technology to bring into the company. Most recently, Karen helped to spearhead a project in which Double M Concrete LLC used a glow-in-the-dark aggregate mix with manufactured stones that absorb light and glow at night. Along with helping other women in construction build their confidence, Karen is most excited to see how the industry will continue to grow and flourish with new advances.

Barbara Moore – Bricklaying industry veteran

After working in construction for over 40 years, Barbara Moore retired recently knowing she made a name for herself after a successful career – and that she helped make a name for women in construction. Barbara became a bricklayer shortly after high school and though she received a lot of criticism from men she worked with, she continued in her passion. At the time, she was the only woman in Baltimore, Maryland doing this type of work. Now well-known in the area for her contributions in the industry and for women in construction, Barbara looks back proudly at her career having put her stamp on famous projects such as Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium.

Valerie Echter – Social media strategist

Valerie Echter vividly recalls entering an in-person workshop in Nebraska and having the entire room of men turn around to watch her as she joined the class, nearly disrupting the presenter and training session. This was the moment that made her realize that simply showing up on the job wasn’t going to do enough to help other women in construction. For Valerie, working behind the scenes and changing people’s perception of what inclusion within the construction industry looks like was more important. Having studied civil engineering in college, and working for nearly 20 years in the industry, Valerie now works as a business consultant, freelance social media strategist, and content creator with a focus in the asphalt, construction, and engineering sectors. In this role, she’s able to coach businesses on inclusion, give advice to other women in construction, and continue providing opportunities for women to feel more confident in their abilities on-site.

The National Association of Women in Construction now has over 117 local chapters across the United States, which makes it very easy for female builders to connect with our network of professionals. Membership is open to all construction women and NAWIC is able to provide members with amazing resources to help them gain confidence in their abilities and develop more leadership skills. Any female builders interested in becoming a NAWIC member can apply for membership by using either the online form or downloadable application to fill out and mail in – both of which are available on the NAWIC website. There are also several membership options available with flexible pricing and membership terms. To learn more about the female builders and powerful construction women involved in NAWIC or if you have any questions about membership, contact us through our social media pages.